Mom to two little ones and mom.me contributor, Meredith C. Carroll will be sharing her experiences of her recent breast cancer diagnosis, imminent treatments and day-to-day living with the big "c" here on Mom's the Word. Please join us in supporting Meredith and wishing for the easiest path through this challenging journey she and her family are facing.
the most important person in this house right now,” my 5-year-old daughter said
to me when I arrived home from the hospital following my bilateral mastectomy. This
is coming from a girl who, when asked to draw a picture of the world, the only
thing in it is herself, so it wasn’t an insignificant statement.
a “Welcome Home Mommy” to the window next to the front door, and when I sat
down on the couch after limping in through the front door—after what amounted to a 5+-hour car ride home from the hospital—she carefully draped a blanket
over my legs and said gently, “I want to cuddle with you, but I’m only going to
put my head on your shoulder. I’ll be sure not to touch your breasts, although
I guess since you don’t have any, I can’t, anyway.”
not that I didn’t feel loved before. Nor do I feel as if I needed to get cancer
to feel even more loved. But if my glass has been half full since getting cancer,
it’s been because of the affection and adoration that has been showered on me, from people I know well to those I wasn’t sure knew I even existed. Strike
that—my glass has been overflowing with enough lovey-dovey stuff to fill a
refrigerator, freezer and one of those little college-size fridges you kept
in your dorm room.
not going to die (not from breast cancer, anyway, but believe me: I’m
looking both ways two, three, sometimes even four times each time I cross the
street these days). But since getting diagnosed, practically
the only thing keeping me from hiding in my closet under a stack of turtlenecks
and mismatched socks and sobbing as if I just watched that scene in the The
Notebook where James Garner and Gena Rowlands settle in a single twin-size bed
to purposefully take their last breaths together has been the overwhelming
feeling of comfort and concern that so many have showered on me. My tears
aren’t brought to you by Hallmark, though. They’re more of a Sally Field “you
like me, you really like me” kind of
Sometimes just knowing that others are thinking of me and that they really do care is better than the medicine that actually makes me feel better.
no sugarcoating that specific sharp pain that wakes up you at night when you
sit up to go to the bathroom and forget you have drains sewn into you and sticking
out of either side of your chest cavity that limit your movement more than a
few degrees in any given direction—kind of like a dog who just wants to roam
free but is sentenced to a retractable leash that reels him in every time he
gets close to the best-smelling patch of grass. It’s cruel and unusual and stupid and ugly and painful, even if there’s an allegedly good reason for the
even if the physical pain can’t be diminished but only soothed slightly with
healthy and frequent doses of Valium and Percocet, what makes it bearable and
even worthwhile are the deliberate acts of kindness of family, friends, nurses,
friends of friends and even total strangers. From the nurses at the hospital to
whom patients like me are essentially pieces of an assembly line but nevertheless
act as if I was the only one in the entire building, to my parents caring for
me the way I remember they did when I was a little girl and the best medicine
was always my mom stroking my hair gently and telling me I’m her pussycat, and
my dad engulfing me in his strong, tender embrace.
of my most beloved friends has come to exercise with me since my surgery even
though walking a mile in my current state would likely be faster if we crawled
with shackles binding our arms and legs instead of standing upright with one
foot in front of another. Then there’s my friend who’s more like a sister and who drove me nearly seven hours in the dark the other night in a snow so blinding
the only thing we could see were cars piled up and crashed alongside the interstate, just so I could make my post-op appointments the next day—not to mention
her cousin who has had a guest room set up for me that couldn’t be more
comfortable if it were located in a Four Seasons hotel.
husband and mom haven’t so much as blinked—never mind gagged—as they’ve
cleaned the blood clots out of the drains attached to my body. My sister,
aunts, cousins, distant cousins, neighbors, co-workers, clergy, childhood
friends and newfound friends all seem to have the same goal: to make me
feel acknowledged, whether through emails, texts, poignant cards in the mail, bottles
of wines, cheerful cards, creatively thoughtful and funny gifts (a
rhinestone-studded Victoria’s Secret bra and matching thong springs to mind).
let me know that my suffering is on their
mind makes me feel so not alone at a time when being alone could make me feel despair and emptiness that I wouldn’t wish on anyone at any time, no matter
the reason. And sometimes just knowing that others are thinking of me and that
they really do care is better than the medicine that actually makes me feel
better. (OK, maybe not Percocet, but, you know what I mean.)
The frightfulness of the diagnosis and treatment is something I couldn’t have imagined until it happened to me. Neither is the knowledge that people are simply as good—nay, wonderfully amazingly empathetic and generous with their willingness to do what they can to bring me any amount of emotional and physical comfort—as they are.
always knew I was loved. But there’s a specific kind of love you never want to
know people feel for you. However, should you be unfortunate enough to have to
find out, it just enriches your life that much more, and then some.
one gets cancer for the love, but if you have to, there’s really no better
reason to have it.